BLOCK ISLAND, R.I. – Rhode Island developers are pushing at least 15 plans for new or expanded marinas, including a 1,500-boat marina in Portsmouth that would be the biggest marina on the East Coast, according to an article yesterday in the Boston Globe.
A regional shortage of dock space and a rise in boat ownership – in Massachusetts owners registered 16,000 new craft in the past four years – have spurred the calls for expansion, but the issue has also sparked debate between marina owners and coastal residents over public access to water, the Globe reported.
''A dock slip is gold in Rhode Island now. There is great, great demand," John Torgan of Save the Bay, a Narragansett Bay environmental group, told the newspaper. ''We know that marinas are important gateways to the water . . . but we need to look at the cumulative impacts of them to the environment, and to public access."
Boating industry officials say the demand for slips from boaters in Rhode Island and neighboring states has continued to climb since 2001, when many Americans curtailed their overseas travel. In Massachusetts the wait for a permanent boat slip or mooring can take a decade or more. The wait in Rhode Island is shorter, though it still can take months or more, the Globe reported.
Marina construction had been at a virtual standstill in Rhode Island, in part because of a federal luxury tax that led to empty slips at the more than 150 marinas in the state. But the tax was abolished in 1993, and Rhode Island soon eliminated a series of state boat taxes as well, the newspaper reported.
However, many marinas were unable to expand until last year, when they were given a low-cost place to dump the dredged material that had to be removed from harbors to make room for the boats, the Globe reported.